Serious adult asthma on the rise

SINGAPORE - Life-threatening adult asthma cases are on the rise. Last year, 90 asthma patients were admitted to intensive care units (ICUs), a 30 per cent increase in the number from six years ago.

This points to poor asthma control in our community, said Professor Lim Tow Keang, programme director of the Singapore National Asthma Programme (Snap).

A local study showed about two-thirds of asthma patients admitted to ICUs over the last six years had untreated asthma.

Many use relievers to stop asthma attacks instead of getting to the root cause, Prof Lim noted, adding that they equate temporary asthma relief to asthma treatment. "It's like taking Panadol for your headache," he said.

Doctors fail to convince patients to take controller medication because people fail to see the need for daily medication when there are no symptoms, he added.

There is another problem. "A lot of times people don't associate cough with asthma," said Dr Tan Ngiap Chuan, member of Snap.

Asthma needs long-term treatment. Regular follow-ups and daily intakes of controller medication are necessary to suppress asthma flare-ups, said Dr Tan Tze Lee, a council member in the College of Family Physicians, Singapore.

Snap and the college started the Act Now campaign for GPs to educate patients on asthma.

Doctors will assess the quality of asthma control in the patient through the Asthma Control Test.

Prescription methods for reliever and controller inhalers will also be reviewed. About 75 per cent of reported asthma cases are attributed to GP care. Check-ups should also be regular, said Prof Lim.

The Act Now campaign also marks World Asthma Day, May 7.

Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to for more stories.

Purchase this article for republication.